Less than a week after a school shooting in Connecticut left 20 small children dead, a stream of cars flowed in and out of the parking lot of a Minden sail factory.
People had taken time out of their regular day to make the drive on Dec. 20, to park their vehicles, and to walk into the front office of North Sails. On the counter were pink balloons and a box. Those who came left what they could. Pocket change. Hand-written checks. In one instance, $500.
"I wasn't shocked by the response," said North Sails Master Scheduler Jeff Holden. "I knew everybody wanted to help. The final amount is what blew me away."
On Monday, Holden visited The Record-Courier building, carrying a cashier's check for $5,974.09. The amount represented the collective outpouring that followed a deadly shooting in Newtown, Conn., on Dec. 14, when a gunman forced his way into Sandy Hook Elementary School and opened fire in a classroom of first-graders.
The day after the incident, Holden learned that one of North Sails' own, materials manager Brian Engel, based in Milford, Conn., had lost a child in the tragedy. Among the victims identified was six-year-old Olivia Rose Engel.
"This is not going to change anything," Holden said, referring to the check. "But it will help the family if they want to take time off work without worrying about a paycheck. North Sails already came forward and helped with some of the funeral costs."
In the wake of the shooting, Holden and his colleagues organized a fundraiser for the Engel family. For a week, Coffee on Main, both in Minden and the Gardnerville Ranchos, collected donations at their counter. On Dec. 20, North Sails held a drive at their Heybourne Road location
"There was a steady stream of cars every 10 minutes," Holden said. "We didn't say anything. There was no candle light vigil. There was just a nice box and some pink balloons, because pink was her (Olivia's) favorite color. It was an outlet to help. People felt good walking out that door knowing they had done something good."
Holden tallied the funds last week, cut a cashier's check and shipped it to the Engel family on Monday. He said about $4,500 came from the North Sails drive, and the rest from the Coffee on Main collections.
"We had a couple of checks from South Lake Tahoe, Reno and Carson City, but the majority if it came from local businesses here around our area and from regular families in town," he said. "One business wrote a $500 check."
Holden, who has worked for North Sails for 23 years, moved from Rhode Island to Minden about a decade ago. Since then, he said, he's learned how generous the Carson Valley community can be.
"I was doing this in a community that always wants to help," he said. "Everyone now knows that their money will directly help this family."